July 13 2018 was the 101st anniversary of the 3rd apparition of the Blessed Mother to the shepherd children of Fatima in 1917. This particular apparition was deeply disturbing, and would have a lasting influence on seers Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.
Lucia writes in her memoirs of the apparition of July 13, 1917:
“As Our Lady…opened her hands…rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form…floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves…without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear…”
The vision of hell had a profound impact on little Jacinta. Sr Lucia shares:
“The vision of hell filled [Jacinta] with horror to such a degree, that every penance and mortification was as nothing in her eyes, if it could only prevent souls from going there.”
After the apparitions ended, Jacinta’s final journey featured excruciating physical and emotional pain. In one of her visits to see Jacinta in the hospital, Lucia asked her dear friend:
“Do you suffer much?”
“Yes, I do suffer; but I offer everything for sinners and to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Now More than Ever – The Church Needs Saint Jacinta
The vocation of Jacinta cannot be understood apart from the profound and life-changing encounters with the Angels and the Blessed Mother at Fatima.
Lucia describes the supernatural power of those angelic apparitions that preceded the appearances of the Blessed Mother. The Angel led the children to an encounter with the fearsome majesty of God:
“[The Angel] left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence…we could not speak…our souls were completely immersed in God…The force of the presence of God was so intense that it absorbed us and almost completely annihilated us…the peace and happiness which we felt were great……On the next day, too, this same atmosphere held us bound, and it lessened and disappeared only gradually.”
Lucia goes on to share how this angelic apparition left an indelible imprint on their minds as he asked the children to “make everything a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which is offended…and for the conversion of sinners.”
All Hell was Breaking Lose
It is important to understand the events of Fatima in the context of that tumultuous historical period.
In 1917 Europe was still experiencing the devastation of the First World War. The seeds of massive rebellion against God, of future war, genocide and famine were being nurtured and planted by sinful men. These seeds would bear their toxic fruit in the rise of Nazism in Germany and Communism the former Soviet Union, the outbreak of a Second World War, and the Cold War that followed.
The Fatima apparitions ended in October 1917 with the greatest public miracle since the resurrection of Christ – the Miracle of the Sun, seen by over 70,000 people.
The Blessed Mother was doing everything possible to call the human family, and the Church to face the grave threats on the horizon, and to repentance and conversion.
Thanks be to God the Soviet Union and the world were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984 by John Paul II, as requested by our Lady of Fatima. Widespread world war and catastrophic nuclear conflict between superpowers has, for now, been averted.
The Orthodox and Catholic churches in Russia and the former Soviet Bloc can once again welcome the faithful as the nations ravaged by communism struggle to spiritually recover after years of persecution.
But we would be very wrong to thing that Fatima is a message set in the past with no relevance to today. The dark spiritual, political and philosophical forces unleashed during that time continue to impact the world and the Church, and compromise her mission.
In a previous blog I shared how the ongoing abortion holocaust has deep roots in communist Russia:
“…history attests to the fact that Russia spread her errors throughout the world… through the single greatest error of our time: abortion. Russia was the first country ever to legalize abortion up to birth without restriction and also developed and promulgated technology to this end. Russia and areas formerly controlled by the Soviet Union have the highest abortion rate in the world. Further, those countries sharing in the political and ideological legacy of Russia at that time such as China, Cuba and others continue to carry on this violent imperative.” (Geoffrey Strickland, J.D., J.C.L., Rome Office Director for Priests for Life)
Frogs in the Pot
Because we are immersed in this world, we can become blind to how we are gradually compromising with “the world.” How our lifestyles, entertainment, and moral choices are eating away at our faith. This is as true for Cardinals and Bishops as it is for you and me.
If we were to be immersed in God’s presence, as described by Sr Lucia, and see ourselves in the annihilating light of God – would this be an overwhelming experience of joy and peace as it was for the children?
Or would it make us repel in horror and pain as we see the true impoverished state of our souls.
Could that pain lead us to cling to our sin, and choose eternal separation from God, rejecting his salvation?
This all sounds crazy to modern ears. And that is part of the seduction of the evil one.
We do not understand there is a battle raging outside of our awareness, outside of time, to create spiritual blindness, promote a virulent spiritual pride, and the worship of false idols, that leaves us at risk of rejecting the true God we will encounter at our death.
The vision of hell at Fatima was not shared to overwhelm us with anxiety and fear of damnation. The Blessed Mother showed the children hell because of her great love for us and to inspire us to embrace sacrifice and mortification to save sinners.
And it remains an important message for you and me today – to impress upon us that there are grave threats to our eternal salvation – and move us to a radical re-orientation of our lives.
A Return to Spiritual Basics
The children of Fatima, and especially Jacinta, revealed the mystical power of sacrificial suffering. This is not suffering rooted in self-hatred or psychological disorder. This is not the suffering inflicted on innocent, vulnerable children and young adults by manipulative, abusive men and women.
Rather, this is a free act of charity and love for those “in most need of God’s mercy.” It arose from the children’s intimate encounters with the awesome majesty of God, the eternal joys of heaven, and the horrifying reality of eternal damnation.
It is a love that flows from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ – a love that flows from the very heart of our Savior.
If our Church, its leaders, and laity are to follow the example of Saint Jacinta, then we must also pray in deep humility that the Spirit reveal to us anew the awesome and fearsome majesty of God. Our prayer, and especially our liturgical worship, must lead us to this powerful encounter with the Blessed Trinity.
Once again Lucia’s words remind us of the spiritual power of the Eucharist present in the tabernacles and consecrated on the altars of the Catholic Church around the world. Hidden in the forms of bread and wine is the same majestic power of God that was mediated through the angelic apparitions of Fatima:
“[The Angel] left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence. The presence of God was so powerful and intimate that even among ourselves we could not speak.”
From this profound encounter with the Blessed Trinity may we experience as a Church a renewed awareness of the grave threat that sin poses to our salvation and a healthy fear of eternal damnation – but more a hatred of sin because it offends our Heavenly Father, who is all good and deserving of our worship and our love.
It is past time for Church leaders and the faithful to re-discover the spiritual benefits of daily rosary, and introduce special days of fasting and sacrifice – not just during Lent – but throughout the year. Days of fasting from technology, entertainment, meat, etc.
We are in need of priests and laity that can help us make an intimate re-connection with the apparitions of Fatima, a healthy theology of sacrifice, mortification and reparation, and the spirituality of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I believe knowledge of the latest scientific research and forensic information revealed in the Shroud of Turin, could be an important partner with the apparitions of Fatima in the reform and renewal of the Church. The horrific torture of Jesus revealed in the Shroud of Turin, can also be a sign of solidarity and hope for those who have been so intimately wounded by the abominable abuse, and the perpetration of abuse, by men called to be pastors and shepherds of souls.
We pray for a Church that is in the world – but not of the world.
A Church that is a bright beacon of light for the salvation of the nations.
Saint Jacinta, pray for us!